By Alexander Carpenter
General Conference president recently spoke at the Palm Spring church and the Press-Enterprise covered his call for the church to move forward on women’s ordination. But Paulsen also worries about rebellion. Well, the blogosphere is lighting up on the topic.
Kicking it off, ProgressiveAdventism‘s Julius writes:
“If represented accurately, this article contains one of more direct
statements (if not the most direct) given in support of women’s
ordination by Elder Paulsen that I have seen. And I’d like to register
my support and appreciation to him for taking a clearer stand and
exercising prophetic leadership on this issue. Elder Paulsen talked about ‘rebellion’ in the future tense, but in many ways this “rebellion” has long been coming.”
Claremont graduate student and Adventist Gender Justice blogger, Trisha writes:
I’m VERY pleased that Pastor Paulsen brought up the issue. But,
as I expressed in my previous post titled ‘The World Church and Women,’
I do not think that it is practical or necessary for the church to
maintain a unified “official” perspective in this decision. There is
way too much post-structuralism and cultural subjectivity in my blood
to believe that theology and praxis are understood the same way
trans-regionally. We SHOULD proceed in the spirit of ecumenism and
unity, recognizing that this was Jesus Christ’s prayer to the Father. I
recognize that there is difficulty in judging the points where it is
acceptable for the church to diverge AND still maintain unity.
The ordination of women is beginning to sound less like an issue of
theology to me, and more like a question of how men and women have
related to each other in an exchange of power. Scripture may
demonstrate some examples of how men and women have related to each
other and give principles of equality (or not). But recognizing whether
it is legitimate to ordain women is also recognizing how women are
fundamentally understood and historically defined by men. There is a
reason why my “nature” has been in question and whether I possess
enough reason, emotional balance, and so on, to enter public space. Is
the church sure that theology can fully answer these questions?
Some bloggers are continuing the call for a go-slow approach, but I disagree:
Frankly, it takes some thoughtful reading of history and scripture
to understand the message of increasing spiritual meaning rooted in
access to God for all. Too often smatterings of “biblical” texts and
lazy accommodationism masks the fact that we always, already read first
through our culture. And culture is comfort.
Historically, it’s interesting to see the similarities between the
accommodationist arguments for a slow approach to desegregate the
American South: “wait until everyone understands, be tolerant of their
culture, it’s biblical, I know blacks who prefer it.”
Treating women as equal before God is not even a question of
biblical authority — the Seminary published Women In Ministry last
decade. What’s holding us back to realizing the kin-dom of God is not
the need for more light. What we’ve got now is a few well-placed but
poorly read administrators beholden to poorly read financiers who like
the “I-don’t-read-anything-except-the-bible-and-Ellen mantra of the
Pipim-right. And then they wonder about church growth — yeah, who
wouldn’t want to come to a church where women are second-class citizens
in a country where a women now heads Congress.
Maybe a few more leaders are waking up. Check out this from Jere
Patzer this month: “Likewise, doesn’t it make sense that God is hurt
when we are less than accepting of His children, no matter their
nationality, ethnicity, religion, color, gender, age, or other
differences? It has been rightly said that we cannot honestly pray the
Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father who art in heaven…’ unless we are willing to
treat all people as brothers and sisters.”
If they write this, they need to be held accountable to what that really means today.
The backbone of elected leaders is the voice of the people — if we
push them by our example and support them against the wacky-right, we
can change this injustice.
Here’s a few ideas of what an inclusive strategy for change might entail.
- We have a SS lesson quarterly on the topic, with the best Adventist minds discussing all aspects.
- We host a series on Hope that brings together both sides.
- Each union prez speaks in support on the topic at workers meetings and at his colleges.
The fact of the matter is that most people just need to hear good
reasons from Adventists that they respect to understand that treating
women unequally is a cultural, not a biblical reality.
Anyone (sorry Johnny) who says that he or she wants women’s
ordination but argues for “at their own pace” should also put forward
some ideas on how to actually get to the goal of equality in Christ.
What’s the difference between own pace and daily institutional
Because now, for over a decade, too many of our leaders have been
sitting around telling us to wait awhile before we really can love one
another as Christ did. In a month that reminds us that conference
presidents can commit ethnic genocide and call for God’s children to be
hanged (not jailed), let’s not ignore the fact that God’s people perish
from not just lack of vision, but moral action too.